Money confiscated from criminals is helping young people build a new future for themselves – with the help of football and an ex-offender who’s now a role model.
The ground-breaking Warehouse project in Wrexham, which teaches construction skills as a way of getting a foothold on the jobs ladder, has been given a boost by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.
Warehouse won a public vote to secure £3,000 in funding from the Your Community, Your Choice scheme set up by Winston Roddick CB QC.
They used part of the money to buy a new football kit and equipment for their newly-established team.
The scheme is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).
Much of the cash was recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using money seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The Warehouse project was established by businessman George Powell who last year received the Mr Roddick’s Gold Award at his inaugural Community Awards.
Shored up with finance from small company Universal Builders, of which Mr Powell is a partner, by 2011 the project had also taken over and transformed a once dilapidated warehouse in Wrexham.
It is now the base for a successful training centre where young people learn practical skills.
Skills now covered include everything from bricklaying, plastering and painting to joinery, garage mechanics, car valeting, cookery, nutrition and art. There is a fitness suite, a function room, IT area, and leisure area.
Among the Warehouse team who met Mr Roddick was ex-offender Jack Morrison who can testify about how effective the project is in transforming young people’s lives for the better.
Jack, 22, from Wrexham, started out as a volunteer last year and has now been taken on as a member of staff.
He said: “It’s helped with my confidence because I had come out of prison after being done for criminal damage and assault – this has changed my life completely around.
“I look at life with a totally different aspect now. I’ve got more belief in myself and I’m happy with what I’m doing. I love it. It’s worth doing.
“I can help the young people who come to the Warehouse project because I see where they are now and that’s what I was like. Hopefully I’ll stop them going down that way.”
Construction manager Andy Jones doubles up as the coach of the Warehouse football team who won the first tournament they entered.
He said: “We’re really grateful to Mr Roddick and the people in the community who voted for us to get the money because it is showing faith in us.
“We’re running engagement courses for kids between 16-18 years old to give them to give them a taster of construction skills.
“Some don’t cope well in classroom situations so we’ve got a construction area and we have a hands-on go at it every day.
“It’s been under construction now for about two years but we’ve been training now and working alongside a charity for the past 6 months.
“Jack came on the course and now he’s come back as a member of staff as my assistant and he’s come on in leaps and bounds.
“He’s keen to learn, he’s willing and he’s gained a position of trust and he gets to do his own work now with a group of young lads.
“As part of the course, we do one day’s football training and we have coaches from Wrexham Football Club coming down.
“We’ve played in our first tournament organised by Working Links and we won and they’ve just asked us to enter in the next competition. They’re doing really well.”
Mr Roddick is a big fan of the Warehouse project.
He said: “It was one of the first visits I made after coming into office and it opened my eyes to see how some members of the community invest so much of their own time and finances for the benefit of other people in the community and the Warehouse is a shining example of that.
“It’s intended to assist young people who without the Warehouse project might be on a very precarious path and might fall into the great abyss without the kind of support that the scheme gives them.
“Joining the Warehouse Project is like doing an apprenticeship. You’re taught by skilful people how to acquire new skills and you can indeed put them to good use when you’re in the job market.
“I was delighted they used some of the grant to buy a new football kit and equipment.
“Football is one of our great national games and it brings together young people and gives them an opportunity to demonstrate different skills.
“It also demonstrates the value of working together as a team and that the performance of one reflects on the others and the poor performance of one also reflects on the team as a whole.
“I’m glad that the money we’ve given them can now be seen on the playing fields of North Wales and is helping these young people score a success in life.”